Before each game, Corey Perry said the Ducks go over a list of things they have to do well and things they have to overcome to be successful.
On Thursday, in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, they crossed off a lot of items on that list, racing out to a two-goal lead, giving it up in the final 35 seconds of the third period, then rebounding to beat the Nashville Predators 3-2 in overtime, evening the best-of-seven series at two wins apiece.
The series, now a best-of -three, returns to Anaheim for Game 5 on Saturday at Honda Center.
“It doesn’t matter when it’s in the game. You’ve got to go back and think, what’s on that list?” Perry said. “Adversity’s one of them. We knew coming into overtime, you put that period behind you. And we got some chances. And we got a break.”
And then they got a win 10:25 into overtime, with Perry’s centering pass from the right wing hitting the stick of Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban and deflecting into the net for his second goal in as many games.
“I was just trying to create traffic … create havoc in front,” Perry said. “That’s what they say in overtime: You throw it on net, never know what’s going to happen.”
The game was actually two games in one, with the Ducks dominating for the first 21/2 periods, taking a 2-0 lead on goals from Rickard Rakell and Nick Ritchie. But they stumbled with the finish line in sight, allowing Nashville to tie the game on goals from Subban and Filip Forsberg in the final 61/2 minutes of regulation.
A poor line change by the Predators halfway through the first period led to a 1-0 Ducks lead when Rakell, left alone at the blue line, collected a long pass from Cam Fowler and beat goalie Pekka Rinne with a slap shot from the top of the left circle.
On the other end, Ducks goalie John Gibson faced only two shots in the opening 20 minutes, the fewest allowed in a postseason period in franchise history.
Ritchie doubled the lead midway through the second period, using Nashville defenseman Roman Josi to shield Rinne, then blasting a shot past him high to the goalie’s glove side.
The Ducks gave all that away in a sloppy third period, one in which they took four penalties — giving Nashville a two-man advantage for one 91-second stretch while going 13 minutes without a shot themselves.
“These ebbs and flows,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “We wanted to make sure we established a strong start. And we did that, with an exclamation mark.
“But we knew they were going to come out with more of a push.”
The push started with 6:23 left in regulation, with Subban firing a slap shot through traffic and past Gibson from just inside the blue line before Forsberg tied the score on a controversial goal with 36 seconds left in regulation.
With the Nashville net empty and the Ducks running out the clock, defenseman Josh Manson tried to play the puck off the boards behind the Ducks goal. The Predators’ Ryan Johansen appeared to crosscheck Manson, allowing the puck to trickle out to Viktor Arvidsson, who pushed it to the front for Forsberg to chop in.
“It wasn’t ideal,” forward Andrew Cogliano said of the way the Ducks finished the third period. “You want to close out that game.”
But the mood in the dressing room was one of optimism, not dread. How to rebound from disaster, it turns out, is on the checklist too.
“The only thing you can control is how you reset yourself and how you plan to move forward,” Carlyle said. “We did a good job of understanding that we can’t change what just happened, but we sure can make an impression and go out and give us what you’ve got.”
Perry did that, allowing the Ducks to breach the once-impenetrable walls of Bridgestone Arena, where the Predators hadn’t lost a home playoff game in 10 tries, the longest streak in the NHL in two decades.
The last visiting team to win a playoff game in Nashville? The Ducks, who beat the Predators in Game 4 of their first-round series last season.
“We deserved to win,” Cogliano said. “That was probably our best game of the series. That’s the biggest win we’re going to get all season. And we needed it.”